Posted on August 31, 2019

An Indian Engineer Shares his Oxford MBA Experience

Arjun Bardhan, an IT professional and a consultant at the Tata Consultancy Services for 10 years, worked with MER for his essays for Oxford SAID. Arjun is going to graduate from Oxford SAID in a month.

Last year, his first video interview with MER, Arjun had shared his background, application experience, his resulting success at ISB and Oxford SAID, his extracurricular activities, his volunteering activities, and his advice for older applicants.

Today Arjun has very kindly agreed to share his amazing experiences at Oxford SAID MBA program.

In this candid video interview, Arjun talks about the following:

  1. His background
  2. Career goals- How Oxford helped in achieving them
  3. His Favorite thing about Oxford SAID
  4. His involvement in extracurricular activities
  5. Advice to incoming students
  6. Recruitment at Oxford
  7. Importance of networking/building relationship

And now presenting Arjun......

Poonam: Welcome back. Thank you for your time. Congratulations on graduating from Oxford. Congratulations on almost graduating from Oxford. How does it feel?

Arjun: It feels great. The last one year passed so fast; there was hardly any time to absorb the experiences. It stills feels like yesterday that I came to SAID Business School, and I hardly knew how to navigate to reach for our first class. It has been a great journey. There was a lot of learning; there were moments of frustration as well as moments of happiness. Overall, it has been an incredible learning experience.

Poonam: For those who have not seen/ read your first interview, can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What was your pre-Oxford job?

Arjun: I was born and raised in Calcutta, West Bengal in India. After completing my Electrical from Engineering from the West Bengal University of Technology, I joined TCS and worked in Chennai for four years. After that, I moved to the USA, worked in Dover and Indianapolis, and later moved to Boston. I had a great time working with TCS in different roles, from Quality Assurance to a Developer to a product owner. Lastly, as a Project Manager managing almost $4 million portfolios for an insurance client. And then, I decided to do an MBA because I felt that my career growth had become stagnant. I took the GMAT four times. Finally, I got a 730, my first attempt being 610. I was looking for a 1-year program and was inclined more towards European programs because they had better brand value in the 1-year program. I short-listed a few European schools, including Oxford, Cambridge. Things worked out at Oxford, and I joined Oxford.

Poonam: What are your career goals? Do you think Oxford helped you achieve your goals?

Arjun: Yes, it has been quite an experience. I have got great support from the career team at Oxford. Whenever I approached them, they connected me to the career advisor, the industry experts, gave me great suggestions on my CV and cover letter, and helped me with the mock interviews. I would advise the incoming Oxford students to be proactive in seeking help from the career team early in the year and tell them about their career goals and about the companies they are interested in and request them to connect them with the appropriate industry. It is not the job of career services to provide you a job. They are here to help you to get in touch with the industry you want to work with. Unlike in India, here in the UK, the companies do not visit the campus. So one should have the right expectations from them and approach them early.

Poonam: What is your favorite thing about your program? Could you please share your best experiences both in and outside of the classroom that has helped shape your career?

Arjun: Sure. The best experience in the last one year would be the MBATs. MBATs is the MBA Olympics among the European b-schools, an annual event held in HEC Paris, where all the European schools meet and compete in three-day sports events. It has been one of the most incredible experiences that most of us had. I participated in a couple of sports and was captain of the Table Tennis Team; we did not win, but we went over a champions team, and it is the third time that Oxford won the competition in terms of the overall medals. It was a great experience, not just being involved in sports but supporting other team players. Regarding classroom experience, I think diversity is the biggest strength of Oxford because the people come with varied experiences, diverse backgrounds, different age groups, and they bring in so many different experiences that there is an incredible scope of learning from each other. Learning from those people is probably the biggest take away from the classroom experience.

Poonam: Is there anything about Oxford that you would like to change?

Arjun: No. the school is perfect. Every school has a few minor things that could have been done better. I believe this should also be our objective to enrich the school and make it a better place for the incoming students. We always have certain suggestions and improvements, and I think that is a continuous improvement process for any B-school. Overall, it has been a great experience.

Poonam: I remember you were heavily involved in volunteer work. Did Oxford provide you opportunities for volunteer work?

Arjun: A one-year MBA program is so fast-paced that it is very difficult to get involved in everything you want to. It is a little overwhelming, but as the year progresses, you slowly get used to the lifestyle because the transition from work life to student life takes a little bit of time. Yes, I have been involved in quite a few initiatives; I am a part of the Oxford ambassador group; the main role of this group is to work with the incoming students. Oxford usually has launch stations or information stations where people talk about their experience; these sessions are followed by lunch or dinner, which is organized by the ambassador. I have been part of that group and have attended many sessions. I have also been part of My College. Every student of Oxford University, no matter which college they are studying in, have to enroll in My College, where you are interacting with students in the college, and not with your MBA community, which is incredible.

Poonam: What did you wish you had known before you started, and what was a challenge? Can you share some advice to incoming students to help make their adjustment to b-school, specifically Oxford, easier?

Arjun: This is a very good question. It is pretty important to speak to current students or recent alumni as it helps you understand what to expect and how to prepare.  Before I came to Oxford, I had spoken to quite a few alumni who had recently graduated, and I got valuable advice, basically about the career services and about being more proactive. It was important to at least have a basic idea as to what I wanted to do before my MBA and do my groundwork. The more you talk to people, the more you do your research, you will be prepared. At the same time, it is also important to be open to options. This is something I wish I had known better. When I came to Oxford, I wanted to be in Consulting, so I prepared a lot for consulting, but I later realized that it is equally important to have a backup option, a Plan B. One should have an open mind. I have seen quite a few of my friends whose priorities have changed over time. They wanted to go into consulting, and finally, they have become entrepreneurs having a company of their own. So it’s good to have a target, but at the same time, one should be flexible and open to new options.

Poonam: I agree. Can you tell us something about recruitment at Oxford?

Arjun: For recruitment, it is very important to build relationships. Before I came to Oxford, I heard the word ‘networking.’ I think networking is not the right word because networking seems like a very transactional relationship. It is very important to build authentic relationships with people in your class and with your future employer. The recruitment has two parts- one is a structured hiring period, and the second is unstructured hiring. Structured hiring typically starts in October- November at Oxford, and it is primarily for the consulting companies, though there are some finance companies. These companies usually recruit people who have applied through the school structured hiring program, and they call you for the interview. They have two structured programs with Oxford- Operations and Continued Leadership Development programs, which are very few. For the unstructured hiring, Oxford has a career site like any other career site where you can go and apply for the jobs. Then there are other sources such as LinkedIn, but the European market is very competitive, and for one job opening, there are around 2000 applications. Since it is very difficult to get selected by applying to a job, it is important to build relationships with people. For example, if you want to go to Consulting, even before coming to Oxford, you should make a list of your probable employers. If you want to go to the food industry, make a list of the top ten employers in that category in the European market. Reach out to people that matter in that field, Have a chat over coffee, and learn what they are doing. Even if you don’t end up working for them, you gain a lot with such chats. Over the last one-year, I must have had quite some great conversations with more than 30- 35 people in London, and some of them referred me to some other business unit. So I think building relationships is the key to landing a good job.

Poonam: I liked what you have said- building relationships is the right word, not networking.

Arjun: This is something I have learned with time. When I started doing it, reaching out to people, I also thought that I have to reach out to as many people as I want to.  I come from an Insurance background, so I reached out to people who partner with different consulting firms for insurance or are business development managers in each insurance company across Europe. Over the process, I realized that it is important to build relationships rather than just being transactional.

Poonam: What does your post MBA career look like?

Arjun: I have a couple of offers at this point, and I cannot name the company I am going to join because it is not confirmed yet. I have accepted the offer, and they are still working on some official stuff. So until it is completely confirmed, I cannot reveal. Most likely, I will be in Europe or the UK. In a month, I will confirm the name of the company.

Poonam: Understood. Lastly, is there anything you would like to share that I haven’t asked?

Arjun: I think that one of the things I should have answered in terms of the advice to people who would come to oxford. Since it is a one-year MBA program, there is tremendous pressure in terms of assignments, exams, and search for a job. But it is very important to go out, have conversations with people, come out of your comfort zone. Now that my MBA is almost wrapping up, I will never get this experience of having enriched conversations with people. For example, in our Cohort, we have a South African lady in her forties; she is a surgeon and some students who have served in the army in the UK or some other country. When you have normal conversations with them, the kind of thoughts and experiences they bring with them is much bigger than the classroom experience or learning from any theoretical point, which enriches you as a human being.

Poonam: Wonderful. This is valuable advice. It was nice talking to you. Thank you, Arjun, for reconnecting with us and sharing your valuable and amazing Oxford experiences. I wish you good luck with your last one-month at Oxford and your post- Oxford career and continued success throughout your life.

Arjun: Thank you, Poonam. I appreciate it. Thank you again for your help. Let us keep in touch. Thank you.

Poonam: Sure. Thank you once again. Bye.

Note: You can connect with Arjun via LinkedIn or Facebook.

For questions, email Poonam at